Wheat leaf and stem rust in the United States

James Kolmer, Yue Jin, D. L. Long

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Leaf rust, caused by Puccinia triticina, is a common and widespread disease of wheat in the US. On an annual basis, over 50 races of the leaf rust fungus are detected. There are at least 5 major groups of genetically distinct P. triticina isolates in the US based on allelic variation at microsatellite loci. Distinct regional race populations of P. triticina are found in the US, due to the widespread use of race-specific leaf rust resistance (Lr) genes in different market classes of wheat. In the south-eastern States where soft red winter wheats are grown, races with virulence to Lr9, Lr11, and Lr18 are predominant. In the southern Great Plains region where hard red winter wheats are grown, races with virulence to genes Lr9, Lr17, Lr24, and Lr26 are common. In the northern Great Plains region where hard red spring wheats are grown, races with virulence to Lr2a and Lr16 are common. Due to the wide dispersal of P. triticina, some races are found in all regions of the US. Highly effective durable resistance to leaf rust has been difficult to achieve due to the high degree of virulence variation in the P. triticina population and the rapid selection of races with virulence to effective Lr genes in wheat cultivars. Hard red spring wheat cultivars with genes Lr16, Lr23, and Lr34 have been highly resistant for more than 10 years in Minnesota and the Dakotas. Stem rust, caused by P. graminis f. sp. tritici, has not been a common disease of wheat in the US since the last major epidemics in the 1950s. The low levels of stem rust infections in the US can be attributed to the increasing use of highly resistant winter and spring wheat cultivars, which has greatly reduced the overall level of stem rust urediniospores. Eradication of the alternate host, Berberis vulgaris, has reduced the number of races and slowed the emergence of new races. Resistance genes Sr2, Sr6, Sr17, Sr24, Sr31, Sr36, and SrTmp are common in the winter wheats. Genes Sr6, Sr9b, Sr11, and Sr17 are common in the spring wheats. Spring wheat cultivars may also have adult plant stem rust resistance derived from cv. Thatcher. Many of the winter and spring wheats are susceptible to the new stem rust race from East Africa; however, cultivars with resistance to this race can be found in each of the major wheat classes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)631-638
Number of pages8
JournalAustralian Journal of Agricultural Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2007


  • Puccinia graminis f. sp. tritici
  • Puccinia triticina
  • Race specific resistance
  • Specific virulence


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